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Forward-looking dialogue is key to governing Mediterranean migrations

FAO hosts a debate on policies to tackle rural population dynamics in a uniquely complex region

29 May 2018, Rome - Countries around the Mediterranean region "should aim towards a forward-looking dialogue" geared to food security and more inclusive rural development to better govern migration dynamics, Maria Helena Semedo, FAO's Deputy Director General, said today.

The region, comprising countries to the north, south and east of the Mediterranean Sea, has specific complexities when it comes to migration patterns, she said. Several migratory patterns overlay each other, and in particular the region is home to countries that are simultaneously countries of origin, destination and transit for Mediterranean populations and those of adjacent regions such as Central Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, Semedo said.

"The increased complexity calls more than ever for policy dialogue and exchanges at a regional level" and spanning a broad spectrum of policy sectors, she said. "Immigration must be a positive and constructive option. The bottom line for FAO is that migration must be a choice, not a necessity."

She spoke at the Forum on Agriculture, Rural Development and Migration in the Mediterranean Region, held at FAO and jointly organized with the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the European University Institute (EUI).  Experts from international organisations, development cooperation agencies, research institutions, policy practitioners and civil society organisations gathered to achieve a better understanding of the drivers and impacts of migrations to inform better forward-looking policies and programmes.

Migration is "part of development" and its drivers encompass a slew of factors from individual decisions to social dynamics and structural forces, Semedo said. It also has major implications in terms of food production, natural resource management, social protection and inclusive economic growth, all of which have been subject to major shifts over the past 20 years in the Mediterranean region, she added.

FAO's view is that, if well managed, safe, orderly and regular migration can contribute to economic growth, poverty reduction and food security of the Mediterranean region, through knowledge, skills and technology transfer. But the potential benefits of migratory movements must be actively promoted through coherent policies that jointly harness its potential and minimize its negative effects.

FAO's work

FAO and its partners work to address the adverse drivers of migration, such as poverty, food insecurity and unemployment, while harnessing its development potential.

"FAO believes that investing in agriculture and sustainable rural development, climate change adaptations and resilient livelihoods is an important part of the global response to migration," she said, emphasizing that Organization works to keep that focus present in what has become a politically-charged issue, generating policy-relevant evidence, considering humanitarian and development agendas as continuous.

FAO is co-chair, along with the International Organization for Migration, of the Global Migration Group, a consortium of UN agencies advising member states on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regularly Migration due to be adopted in December 2018.

"The Mediterranean has always been a melting plot, and this has significantly marked civilization," said Gianni Bonini, vice-president of CIHEAM. A variety of tools will be required to harness the trend to the world's sustainable development goals, he said, noting that population growth, inequalities, marginalization, lack of decent employment opportunities, civil conflicts and environment crises are all factors to tackle.

CIHEAM is an intergovernmental organization with 13 member states devoted to the sustainable development of agriculture and fisheries, food and nutrition security and rural and coastal areas. The European University Institute (EUI) is an academic institution devoted to inter-disciplinary and comparative research and to promote work on the major issues facing the process of integration and European society. The Union for the Mediterranean is an intergovernmental institution bringing together the 28 European Union Member States and 15 countries from the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean to promote dialogue and cooperation.

Key themes

Today's discussionswere organized across several round tables and parallel sessions where participants focused on issues ranging from rural outmigration - a common trait across the region - the future of food production and the impact of "brain drain" as youth employment opportunities generally fall short of needs and hopes.

Policy-relevant topics such as the role of remittances on countries or origin and integration strategies in countries of destination were also discussed, as were issues related to gender and environmental factors such as the risk of desertification of some areas in the region.

"The Mediterranean is at the crossroads of civilizations, ideas and goods. It is our shared responsibility to revitalize rural development and to unlock the potential of migration for regional economic growth," said Junko Sazaki, Director of FAO's Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division.

Photo: ©Nikos Economopoulos/Magnum Phot
Drying tomato powder in Tunisia.

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